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Evaluating the impact of Reconciliation

Education, UNDRIP and commitments to Reconciliation

A recent survey commissioned by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner shared the attitudes and thoughts related to Truth and Reconciliation from over 3,000 Saskatchewan residents. It serves as a starting point to evaluating the process of Reconciliation in the province. Rhett Sangster (RS) and Micheal Heimlick (MH) are leading that process for the OTC, here’s why they do what they do.

OTC: What is evaluation?
Evaluation is figuring out if we’re making progress. It’s about learning from our efforts to determine what is and what isn’t working and why, so that we can do better.

MH: To me, evaluation contains a way to collect data that helps improves the programs, organizations, and systems. Evaluation is not the type of research that is traditionally thought of; it’s driven by community organizations and the people who use the services put on by those community organizations. Evaluation is used to help design, assess, and improve community-based services so that it means most to the people using them.

Why is it important to the process of Reconciliation?
Reconciliation is about doing things in a new way – one that takes the best of Indigenous and western worldviews. It’s unchartered territory, a journey full of challenges and opportunities and if we don’t have a way of checking to see how we’re doing, and of learning from our mistakes and our successes, then it will take us a lot longer to get to where we want to go.

MH: In the two years we’ve been working on the measurement strategy, we’ve consistently heard that, “life hasn’t changed” despite Reconciliation becoming more “mainstream”. Elders and Survivors would acknowledge that small changes have happened but that the main, systemic, issues remain. Therefore, there was a call for accountability to those who promised they would change the way they do things.

Also, evaluation is a Call to Action. Number 55 outlines the importance of gathering data and reporting back to assess the country’s progress towards Reconciliation. It is our plan to do the same for Saskatchewan.

What is that cool mapping thing you are doing?  Why are you doing it?
The mapping is a tool to help organizations determine where they are currently in their journey towards Reconciliation. It uses the four elements of the OTC’s Vision for Truth and Reconciliation through Treaty Implementation as a way to get people thinking about what they are doing and what more they could do. It’s a starting point from which to build a strategy of how to move forward at an organizational, community and individual level.

MH: As we began creating the measurement framework and meeting with people across the province, we quickly realized that organizations were already doing good work in an effort to work towards Reconciliation. However, there was nobody keeping track of all of the activities taking place. To us, it was important to begin tracking the work happening across the province. We developed a process based on the Vision for Reconciliation that helps organizations identify where they are currently at in their work towards Reconciliation. During a three-hour session, organizations write down all they are doing using a custom-designed map. In the end, they have an exhaustive list of activities classified in one of the four Reconciliation areas outlined in the vision. It’s a fun, engaging way to reflect on Reconciliation in any organization.

How does the survey fit in?
They survey is part of our effort to create a provincial baseline – a starting point from which to measure whether attitudes and knowledge on Truth and Reconciliation are changing in our province.

MH: While the mapping exercise is a good way to collect data, it has one key limitation – it gathers data from people and organizations who are interested in or motivated to work towards Reconciliation. That’s a small portion of our province, so we believe it is important to determine the attitudes and thoughts about Reconciliation among the general public – those people who may not think about Reconciliation on a daily basis. We also believe that the information gathered in the survey could be used by organizations and Reconciliation groups to make informed decisions about the events and changes they are trying to make in their communities.

And the mapping is only one step. Over the course of the summer, we identified well over 800 ways that organizations, governments, and systems can measure Reconciliation in Saskatchewan from the Calls to Action, MMIWG Calls for Justice, the UNSDG, Rights of the Child, and more. These are all based on the Vision for Reconciliation and provide specific ways organizations can track change.

What are you hearing back from people?
We’re hearing that they really enjoy the mapping process. It helps them to see how their work fits in the big picture of Truth and Reconciliation – and it helps people to see gaps in that work.

MH: Those who have participated in any of the evaluation activities have responded quite positively and, in my opinion, see the value in collecting meaningful data that can be used to direct serious change. In the mapping exercise – people have told us that it’s nice to have a dedicated period of time where all they think about is Reconciliation and what they’ve been doing in it. In seeing the survey results – people have found it useful because it confirms some of the things they’ve known for many years and because it points to future areas of work.

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